Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Do Good Grades Determine Success?

Stephen Dubner quoting Paul Kimelman, C.T.O. of the Texas-based microcontroller company Luminary Micro.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and he was remarking on an accomplishment I have had in my field (of microprocessor design). He assumed I had been a straight-A student all through school.

When I noted that I was far from it, he was shocked. This got me to thinking: we usually just assume that somehow grades in school (at any level) are predictors of future success, or certainly of intelligence; but I highly doubt it. I tried to find some good studies, but found five problems immediately:

  1. The very definition of success is elusive.
  2. How do you measure validity of grades?
  3. Most middle schools and high schools put so much emphasis on homework versus actual understanding that they are measuring behavior and compliance far more than what has been learned.
  4. Creativity and creative people tend to mess up metrics at each level.
  5. Any research I could find was done at some university which tended to bias results using university metrics of success.
Read the whole thing.

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